Fate’s Chosen: the end

Nong awakens in a dark room with a small dais and throne on top of it; the throne, crimson red, is emanating a dim aura. A shadowed figure sits on top and beckons Nong to approach. Nong approaches the throne and recognizes the figure, it is the great Azmodeus. The monk feels impelled to look down at his feet, for there is some force in the room that makes Nong uncomfortable looking directly at the god.
“What is your wish, Nong Sung Roc?”
It takes a moment for Nong to register what is said to him, but then he realizes Azmodeus is upholding his part of the bargain, how very lawful,
“Um…my wish is for us to be, wait. My wish is for my comrades, no! My wish is for my three comrades, Mordrock, Royce, Naismith and I…to be set free from Glasya’s contract and return to live in Waterdeep.”
“Is that truly your wish?”
The monk pauses for a moment, confused by the question. He hopes what he is asking for cannot be swindled; for devils are known to do such things with their deals.
“Yes, that is my wish.”
“Very well, I can fulfill your wish as you please,” responds Azmodeus who lifts his right hand, circles it in front of him while speaking an incantation; Nong feels nothing as a result of Azmodeus’s action.
“Well then it is done. Be on your way and thank you once again for saving the Book of Keeping.”

Nong feels a strange sensation all over his body as he begins to evaporate into thin air. He looks up for a moment to see the shadowed figure on the throne, wave good-bye to him.

Royce and Mordrock appear on the bank of the River Styx. They look around in horror as they watch poor souls skewered and plucked out of the water and into soul carts.
“We are damned now!”
“This looks like Hell. We have died and gone to Hell to serve Glasya.”
“What is the last thing you remember?”
“The Positive plane, holding my breath, then seconds later exploding…then darkness.”
“About the same as you.”

Moments later they hear a small voice, “Welcome to Hell!” as Bedichiah greets them. The two clerics stare back at the imp, unsure what to say as neither finds this place welcoming. Bedichiah explains to them the journey ahead and how their friend, Naismith has already settled in. They set off for the long journey to Glasya’s palace. When they arrive, Glasya greets them similarly with a toast to shared goals,
“Welcome to home, my clerics. Here let us toast to meeting shared goals!”
Royce and Mordrock each salute and drink, even though neither feels the urge to consume a beverage after that long journey.
“So tell me, what have you been doing without your friend Naismith? Don’t worry, I’ve kept him busy while he’s been here alone,” says Glasya smiling wickedly at them.

The clerics describe their experience in the Positive plane then the cosmic tug. She perks up in her throne as Royce describes the Book of Keeping.
“And then we tried to run and the next thing was both of us were gone from the palace and returned to the Positive plane.”
“Yeah, we died quickly after that I believe.”
“You FOOLS! Where is the book now? Why did you not give it Azmodeus?”
An uncomfortable silence unfolds as the two clerics realize the impact of their decision in relation to who they are talking to.

Glasya, now scowling and frustrated, pauses and tilts her head in thought. She then relaxes back into her throne and waits; she glares back at Royce and Mordrock but cuts them off before they say anything in response. Moments later, Nong walks into the room,
“What the hell are we still doing here? That damn devil screwed me!”
“Nong, please approach me. I want to learn what happened to the Book of Keeping after these two,” as she points to Royce and Mordrock, “disappeared from the palace.”

Nong calms down for a moment, acknowledges his comrades, and approaches Glasya. He describes to her what happened and where the book ended up. Mordrock can sense Glasya’s mood shift to a lighter note; she even begins to nod back at Nong as if she’s actually listening to the monk.

For the first hundred years, the Drow’s Bane work together as en elite strike force, going on dangerous missions in their duty to Glaysa. Nong leads the party, followed by Naismith with Royce and Mordrock assigned to the lowest rank. Nong never lets go of his anger against Azomodeus but under Glasya’s contract, he is compelled to do what he is told to do. The majority of their time is spent outside of the Hells, as a way to ensure their death is only temporary. Towards the beginning of their two hundredth year, changes start to occur. Their alignment shifts towards lawful evil and their appearance begins to take on more diabolic features. In fact, every time they die outside of Hell and are resurrected in Malbolge, they re-appear slightly more fiendish looking.

By year four hundred, they have become great pit fiends who command their own strike forces; all four strike forces have been assigned to infiltrate Thanatos, the plane of Orcus, to assassinate the Prince of Undeath. It takes many attempts to penetrate into Orcus’s palace to kill him, but they succeed in their mission in the six hundred sixty sixth year of their service to Glasya. Royce cuts off the head of Orcus and they return to Malbolge in triumph.

Back in Malbolge, a celebration to award the leaders of the Drow’s Bane strike forces, the greatest medal of achievement begins. Glasya, standing next to the head of Orcus, recites a prayer and asks Nong, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock to kneel. The great pit fiends notice Glasya has her priests with her today, and watch as each priest takes a stand behind each pit fiend. Glasya walks around an anoints each pit fiend with a liquid, whose smell, makes Nong, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock relaxed and sleepy. Glasya finishes reciting her prayer as her voice crescendos over the crowd. When this is heard, each priest draws a ceremonial dagger and quickly slits the throat of their kneeling pit fiend. Immediately, Nong, Naimsith, Royce and Mordrock open their eyes wide with rage as they grab hold of their throat, unable to stop the bleeding gushing out. Each stares up at Glasya in shock and horror as she looks down at them and smiles, then says, “We are done here. You have been given the greatest honor of all.”

The last image the pit fiends see before their eyes close forever, is the Lady of the Sixth exiting the room, holding the head of Orcus.

Nong, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock each awake in a room filled with bright light. Each sees himself lying on a bed, in blankets that are warm and comfy. Each inhales and smells a fragrance that offers a feeling of peace, which is a strange feeling that has not been felt in a very long time. A knock his heard at a door that leads into this room. For Nong, a figure in white monk garments enters and beckons him to come forth; for Royce and Mordrock, each sees a figure wearing robes of their deity; for Naismith, the being is Jimjar, who smiles and takes Naismith’s hand. Each guide says a similar thing to the awakened hero,

“Come, walk with me now down the path.”

Nong, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock, now appear along a path they begin to walk down alongside their guide. The scenery is so beautiful and tranquil that each hero begins to feel ashamed, as if they are not worthy of being in such a pristine place. They glance at their hands, then touch their faces and body and feel nothing that resembles a pit fiend; in fact, they feel like their previous selves which feels so odd. The memories of the past six hundred sixty six years flood their minds and each hero breaks down with unrelenting sobs of shame, that they are not able to remain standing. Each guide turns and looks down, smiles, and picks each hero up and carries them forward,

“Let it out brave one, it is okay. You are where you truly belong now.”

As each guide turns on the path, the hero feels a strong warmth emanate from beyond that causes them to stop crying and look up.

Royce sees Tempus.

Naismith sees Tymora.

Mordrock sees Kelemvor.

Nong sees Brother Taliq.

Tempus, Tymora, Kelemvor and Brother Taliq, smile and extend their arms ready to receive a hug, “Welcome home my hero.”

T H E E N D

Fate’s Chosen: the decision

The first thing Naismith hears are the screams of souls, who have washed ashore, being plucked out and thrown into large soul carts by unforgiving devils with pitchforks. Naismith glances around and takes in the deep reddish hue of the sky, that so eerily compliments the blood red water of the river Styx. “So this is the end then,” he tells himself, waiting to be skewered like the rest of them. Except no devil pays attention to the lonely rogue standing on the river bank; they move pass him as if he’s not there. Naismith sighs, wishing he gave into the cosmic tug, but is grateful for his sacrifice because he sensed the wand explode in the Positive plane. He is quite surprised however, to have ended up in Avernus when his soul was supposed to transfer into the Ring of Mind Shielding. He ponders this some more, “I should have put that ring in Royce’s pocket and then I would be with him right now! If the Positive plane dissolved an artifact, my poor little ring never stood a chance.”

“There you are!” says a little voice from behind the rogue. Naismith turns around and sees the little imp, Bedichiah. “Hello Bedichiah, I guess you are here for me,” bemoans Naismith as he looks down at the tattoo still branded to his arm. “Yes, I am here for you. I’m your escort to Malbolge. Come, let’s get out of this pedestrian place,” smiles the imp who proceeds to fly past Naismith.

Mordrock and Royce hear coughing near them as their eyes slowly adjust from blackness to a lighted blur. They inhale, surprised they can breathe in air, and stir from their prone position.
“Where are we?”
“Are we alive?”
“I don’t know.”
“The last I remember was holding onto the wand and feeling it explode. I felt the pieces pierce into my flesh.”

Then a stern voice between coughs responds to them, “Clerics, you are alive thanks to me.” Mordrock and Royce focus in on a large angel, holding his wounded side, staring back at them.
“My name is Azmael, and I need your help. Wait, I was told there were four of you, why are there only two now?”
Royce reaches for his sword and begins to cast. “Wait, do not cast! I’m a solar of Tyr and I have brought you here by way of Jimjar.”
“Jimjar?! What does he have to do with this?”
“Naismith our comrade follows Jimjar. I thought he would be here with us now, but he’s not.”
“This is very ironic,” says Azmael as he looks the two clerics over one more time.
“Jimjar informed me what your group was up to and from the looks of it, I believe you succeeded in your mission. I have used a very taxing chronomancy spell to pull you from your time line to mine. Because of this, we don’t have a lot of time as I can’t concentrate on this spell forever. I will have to send you back to your timeline eventually.”

Mordrock and Royce look at each other shocked to hear what Azmael is telling them. A look of surprise springs to their eyes as they imagine a world without the wand of Orcus. Azmael picks himself up and leans on his greatsword while still applying pressure to a gash down his side. Mordrock and Royce notice the solar is quite wounded and realize how spent they both are, in terms of spells.
“Azmael, we are quite taxed and need rest. Plus, we can resurrect both of our comrades tomorrow as well. We just need a good night’s sleep.”
Azmael hears this but realizes he does not have such time to spare, “I’m sorry I cannot give you the time you require. That time would jeopardize why I need your help. You shall have four hours to rest. Make do with that.” The solar pauses and then says, “But I do need more than just two of you, I fear. Let me consider this,” and he begins to limp away.

Bedichiah and Naismith journey for a long time crossing through the second, third, fourth, fifth planes of Hell before they arrive into Malbolge. Naismith is surprised his energy kept up through the entire trek and the thought of food or drink never crossed his mind. Eventually they arrive at their destination, the palace of Glasya. Naismith is taken to a large room, where the arch devil herself lounges from an immaculate bone throne, being waited on by several staff.
Glasya watches as the rogue is brought to her. She flicks her wrist at her servant before turning and glaring down at Naismith, “Welcome to home, Naismith,” she says to him with a wicked grin. Naismith acknowledges Glasya before looking down, unable to respond. Glasya senses the mood and immediately a goblet appears in her hand as a goblet appears before Naismith. She raises it and proclaims, “To accomplishing shared goals!” Naismith drinks from the goblet and just looks around, taking in the large room.
“Where are the others Naismith? Why just you now?”
“I do not know my lady. We destroyed the wand of Orcus together but maybe somehow they survived the Positive plane?”
“I highly doubt that.”
There is a pause in the room before Glasya responds, “Very well then. I have the pleasure of just you right now all to myself,” as she eyes the rogue as a potential concubine. She motions for Bedichiah, who acknowledges his lady and escorts Naismith out of the room. Naismith hears from behind him, “Relax my champion. Take some time to unwind and get to know the place. I think you will fit in quite nicely. Don’t worry, I have something in mind for you to do soon…”

“What happened to Anarchocles’s spirit? He is no longer with you?”
“I don’t know. He was there holding the wand with me. Maybe with the wand destroyed, he can now rest and no longer needs me as his host.”
“Wait! I hear something approaching.”
Azmael appears before Mordrock and Royce and tosses something at their feet; the wounded solar is looking a bit better after four hours. “Here, this can help the situation given the time constraint. Choose wisely.”

Mordrock picks up the scroll, opens it and reads it. “It is a scroll of True Resurrection. But we only have one so…we have to choose.” Royce scowls upon hearing this but realizes one is better than none. They settle on Nong, knowing a bit more on where he is in the multiverse, over Naismith. Mordrock casts from the scroll, calling forth Nong to appear. Momentarily, their half-orc monk companion materializes before them, alive and naked. It takes Nong a moment to come to his senses; he flexes his hands, moves his feet and breathes. A slight joy comes to his face as he realizes, he’s alive again.
“Nong, you are back! Welcome back!”
“I missed you guys. Thank you. By the way, where are my clothes?”
“Uh…I don’t know.”
“Oh, I think Naismith has them. He undressed your zombie body before we went to the Positive plane to destroy the wand.”
“OK. Where’s Naismith then?”
“We don’t know. He didn’t come with us to this place. I’m sorry.”
Nong looks down at his body, sees everything is there, and shrugs. Then realizes there’s someone else in the room and turns to Azmael, “Who the hell are you?”
Azmael glares at Nong and says, “the one who enabled you to return to life, mortal.”

Azmael moves toward the group and begins to explain his need. The solar recently learned a Yugoloth general discovered the whereabouts of a Book of Keeping. This powerful artifact contains the true names of many devils and demons; whoever wields the book, controls the fiends. The book lies in the Astral Plane inside a dead god’s dream. The dead god is Valigan, a god of chaos who was struck down by Tyr’s arrow. Azmael and his army attacked the general and his army. The general significantly wounded Azmael but the solar proved stronger and captured the general. Azmael is unable to travel into the dead god’s dream in his current state and needs the party to do so for him. At the same time, fiends loyal to the general and fiends loyal to Azmodeus, are hunting for the book too. The party needs to act quickly before they are discovered.

Mordrock, Royce and Nong acquiesce to Azmael’s request, even though they are unsure what is in it for them at this point. Azmael grabs their hands and teleports them to the Bridge of Dreams; the entry point into Valigan’s dream state. The three cross over the bridge toward the huge figure, with eyes closed and a gigantic arrow piercing his head; the arrow’s tip protruding from the forehead. They enter the dream state and locate several dream copies of the book, while fighting off nightmarish guardians and spectral visions from Valigan’s dreams. They eventually obtain all dream copies of the book without suffering too much psychic damage or indefinite madness. The combined copies reveal the true location of the Book of Keeping. When they fetch the real book, they hear Azmael in their minds warning them that fiends are crossing over the bridge en route to the party’s location. The party is forced to fight many fiends en route back to Azmael.

Azmael teleports them back to his palace except a yugoloth and a devil manage to teleport with them; instant homing beacons for their respective armies. Azmael, who is looking stronger now, dispatches the unwanted guests and reassures the party he can be a force for change much needed in the multiverse by accepting the book. The solar explains how he was a chosen of Tyr until Ao put Tyr’s eye out in a great battle. Azmael could not comprehend Tyr’s decision to accept his punishment, so he left Tyr and traveled the planes forging his own legend.

Azmael moves deeper into his palace, with the party in tow. They move into a grand ballroom with gold plated ornate columns and stained glass windows depicting Tyr’s glory and Azmael’s victories. The solar describes to them how he captured the yugoloth general and persuaded the fiend to join his cause. When the general refused, Azmael tortured him until the location of the book was revealed. The party sees beyond Azmael, a large cage made of force energy with sparkling sigils surrounding it; a large yugoloth in dark plate mail sits motionless inside. The general slightly inclines its head toward Mordrock, who is carrying the book, and acknowledges his success.

While Azmael is talking, Royce, Nong and Mordrock give the stained glass windows a second look and notice something odd. Upon closer inspection, the scenes could be interpreted as ridiculing Tyr, not praising his glory and justice. They also hear in the distance, sounds of breaking through doors and crashing windows, alerting them that the fiendish armies have penetrated the palace’s defenses.

Azmael, now with a determined expression on his face, moves in front of the cage, turns to the party, and says,
“My friends, you are the true heroes of your world and your names will never be forgotten. What you did here, what you’ve helped to facilitate, will change… everything. The ‘balance’ between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is just wrong. It’s a corruption of the worst kind, one that hides behind a so-called justice. Only, the justice is blind – and it cannot afford to be!  But I –we- can now start the process of change. We can be the force of real justice in the world – with the army of yugoloth behind us, and perhaps even wielding the power over powerful lords of Hell! The book you have retrieved offers all this, and more!”

Azmael reaches out his hand toward the party at the same time they telepathically hear the general speak to them,
“If you are half as competent as the solar makes you to be, you won’t believe a word he says. Or perhaps you didn’t notice my wounds?  Oh, I assure you this little torturing project was nothing, compared to the ‘justice’ he executed while travelling the planes. Kingdoms fell, cities burned, children died.  He dreams of a perfect society, of all-encompassing heavens, but that would be just another form of tyranny, where he would make all the rules. The book should belong to the yugoloth and yugoloth only, THAT would be true justice. We were created and enslaved against our wishes – where is justice in that? Destroy the astral energy siphon on the balcony over there, free me, and give the book to me – and I’ll be in your debt.”

The sound of an explosion is heard from behind as the doors to the grand ballroom are blown open. Yugoloths and devils fighting each other flow into the room. One devil separates from the fight, looks at Royce, Mordrock and Nong and raises its arms; its eyes begin to glow white and immediately, an apparition of Azomodeus appears near the party,
“Please accept my sincere apologies for not being able to properly participate in this debate. Alas, I have not been invited. However, I am, as you can imagine, very concerned with what is going to occur here. The system we have, the balance and justice work. Yes, we fight with each other, there are sides to join and all that. But do you see worlds in flames? Heavens falling while fiends and celestials battle? No, it’s all in the past now.  The book is too powerful an object to give to a has been angel, or an independent force. Possessing the power over archdevils would overturn the balance of power in the multiverse, a balance so carefully crafted over eons – also by the very gods you might venerate. Give the book to my agent and I will grant each of you a wish.”

Royce, Mordrock and Nong struggle to decide what to do in the seconds they have before being overrun by fiends. Royce argues for Azmael while Mordrock and Nong argue for Azmodeus. In the end, they decide to run. They head toward the balcony, only to hear Azmael scream back at them in anger, “You are fools! Give me the book now!” Immediately, Royce and Mordrock blink out of existence, as Azmael releases his concentration on the chronomancy spell. Nong watches the book drop to the floor where Mordrock was just standing. Confused and shocked Nong reaches for the book. Fortunately for the naked half-orc monk, he is not bound to the chronomancy spell and is still able to act.

Nong sommersaults toward the book, grabbing it mid-roll thereby preventing the nearest yugoloth from victory. He gracefully lands upright, looks at the devil who projected Azomodeus, and throws the book at it. The devil catches the book and takes off running. Azmael screams in fury as he is not fast enough to catch the devil and turns on Nong instead. With rage boiling in his eyes, he draws his greatsword and strikes Nong, separting the monk in two. Nong hits the ground, closes his eyes and breathes his last breath.

The Cult of the Morninglord (or History of the Church, Part One)

Starting a multi-post deep-dive into Barovian religion with an overview of the Morninglord might have been the smart approach, but I can’t say that much planning went into deciding to write these posts. Instead, this is not part one as I already started this research with a dive into St Andral, but there will hopefully be more on the Morninglord to follow, and who am I to pass up a chance to reference Mountain Goats deep cuts?

Any Realms-savvy dungeon master or player will recognize and connect the title and symbols of the Morninglord to Lathander, the Forgotten Realms’ god of the dawn, the god of beginnings, of spring, birth, and renewal (SCAG p. 32).

We’ve already learned how the Cult of the Morninglord (CotM) supplanted the worship of Andral in Barova. Andral’s worship had died out in the 4th century, Barovian Calendar, but the CotM would not arrive for at least another century.

The worship of the morninglord came from the confused memories of an outlander (i.e not from Barovia/Ravenloft) child saved from Strahd von Zarovich by the elf vampire Jander Sunstar.

We learn from the 3.5E Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (2005) that

The Cult of the Morninglord was born late in the fifth century, after the faith’s founder claimed that when he was a young boy, the Morninglord appeared to him in physical form and protected him from the roaming menaces of the Barovian night.

(p. 67)

This boy’s name and more of his history is detailed in the Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol 1.

One morning in 475 BC, a young outlander boy named Martyn Pelkar stumbled out of the Svalich Woods. Few could predict that the boy’s ramblings about his salvation at the hands of a “golden morning lord” would spawn a cult that somehow made inroads in the hearts of the naturally suspicions and cynical Baroivans.

Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol I, p. 18
An early symbol of the morning lord. A round sunlike symbol drawn on a stained and torn parchment resembling a styalized sun over a road.
The Symbol of the Morninglord, from the Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E, 2005)

The story seems to go that the boy was in fact saved by Jander Sunstar, the sun elf vampire featured in Vampire of the Mists— the story is not so explicitly told in any of the source books I read, but appears to happen in that novel per a citation in the page for the Morninglord on Mistipedia, a Ravenloft Wiki.

The mantle was eventually picked up from Martyn “the Mad” Pelkar by his first acolyte, Sasha Petrovich, and they gathered a congregation at the “Sanctuary of the Blessed Succor” in the Village of Barovia (Gazetteer I, p. 24). Sasha (aka Alexi) is another character featured in Vampire of the Mists.

The Gazetteer goes on to describe how the center of worship moved to Vallaki and then to Krezk forming the cult’s largest center of worship, the Sanctuary of First Light (what would become the Abbey of St. Markovia in 5E, yet another subject for another day).

The Gazetteer gives us the greatest picture of the worship of the Morninglord, so it is disappointing to find it out of print, even on the Dungeon Master’s Guild and Drive Through RPG, where many of the older Ravenloft books (including the Sword & Sorcery 3.5E Player’s Handbook) are available as PDF and/or for print-on-demand.

It seems poor Martyn combined his Lathander catechism with the sun-elf form of Sunstar to create a sort of bastardized, Ravenloft-specific variation to the Faerun god of the dawn. The promise of a salvation and the end of the darkness became a small beacon of hope for just enough Barovians that the cult was able to establish a foothold, and ultimately enough of a following in Barovia. The Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E) touches on the “Unspoken Agreement” between deities and the Dark Powers of Ravenloft, and how the absence (or at least distance) of deities can lead to “theological shifts” and divergence in the faith and tenants of a god’s followers between the material planes and the lands within the mists (p. 64).

Out-of-game, if product licensing had been a little different for Sword & Sorcery, the Player’s Handbook and Gazetteers might have been that much more explicit about names for the Ravenloft Pantheon— instead alluding to similar symbols and epithets without name-dropping a Forgotten Realms™ name like Bane or Lathander— an interesting sidestep also seen when comparing Critical Role’s 2017 Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide to the Wizards of the Coast-published Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (2020).

There is more to the story presented in the Gazetteers that didn’t make it into Curse of Strahd that bears interest, including a “secret society” of undead hunters within the church known as The Dawnslayers, followers of Sasha Petrovich’s legacy dedicated to destroying undead, and vampires in particular (Gazetteer I, p. 24). The legacy of the Dawnslayers would make for an interesting chapter with a cleric or paladin of the Morninglord in Curse of Strahd, but I feel I may have missed the boat for that in my current campaign, as I don’t know that we will be returning to Krezk this late in the story, and I think I’d rather spent the time with the Keepers of the Feather and their worship of Andral.

I couldn’t find much more about The Morninglord (Church OR Cult) in the 2E “Red Box” source books or the later Domains of Dread, noting only that according to Domains and Denizens, “Barovians do not frequent their churches, for they feel that the gods have abandoned them” (p. 8). Both Domains of Dread and the 3.5E books also discuss the Cult of the Morninglord’s following among the Gundarakites, ethnic natives of Gundarak, a valley adjacent to Barovia that Strahd conquered following the Grand Conjunction (Domains of Dread, p. 59, Gazetteer I, p. 24). Because Gundarak, and really, any domain beyond Barovia, is excised from Curse of Strahd, that aspect of the church didn’t factor into my research, but might be an interesting thread to follow were one to expand Barovia from Curse of Strahd‘s three villages to a larger setting drawing from the previous editions.


References

Curse of Strahd (5E, 2016)
Domains of Dread (2E, 1997)
Domains and Denizens (“Red Box”, 2E, 1994)
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount (2020)
“The Morninglord” Mistipeida: A Ravenloft Wiki. Accessed 2020-04-21.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (5E, 2015)
Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol I (3.5E, 2002)
Ravenloft Player’s Handbook (3.5E, 2005)
Tal’Dorei Campaign Guide (2017)


Fate’s Chosen: the gate

Sithka takes a deep breath and focuses on the surrounding environment to keep it from breaking apart in the churning chaos of Limbo. Feeling deeply distraught about her crew and ship, she reflects for a moment until she notices the tall spirit man who occupies the dwarf’s body, pick up the wand. She glances at the fortress and then back at the dead half-orc zombie; what a mess she thinks to herself.

Naismith exits the fortress, and moves to collect Kendall’s robe of stars; he then moves toward Zombie Nong’s body, undresses it and gathers his comrade’s belongings. Royce exits the fortress and looks at Sithka with a solemn face; he casts Tongues on himself and says to her,
“We are truly sorry for your crew and ship, Sithka. We did not expect the battle with Orcus to be here. We figured we would meet him in the Abyss.”
Sithka simply nods and responds, “My duty as githzerai is to protect my home, so this invasion was less about you and more about serving my calling. Nevertheless, if you were not here, that battle would not have happened.”
Royce looks down recognizing the truth in Sithka’s words.
“Royce, the fortress is on top of the key, which I already activated so it cannot be undone. Without more githzerai, I cannot complete the task. I need to return to Shra’kt’lor for more crew and another citadel. In the meantime I will show you and Mordrock how to maintain the stabilization of this environment.”

Royce dismisses the fortress as Sithka begins to teach Royce and Mordrock how to will their minds to keep the surrounding environment intact; the feeling is familiar to them, like concentrating on a spell. However, Royce is the only one who seems to master the technique which keeps him completely focused for the next few hours. Sithka draws a circle on the ground, casts a spell, and teleports away. Mordrock and Naismith notice that pieces of the rock beyond their current location begin to break apart, separate and transform. Both look at each other, concerned how much time they have left on the ground beneath them.

Naismith spends the next few hours resting and attuning to the Ring of Mind Shielding; he thinks he may put the ring’s ability to store his soul to good use, if things go awry in the Positive plane. He stares up at Anarchocles and takes a moment to digest what stands before him and then speaks out to the hero,
“Anarchocles, I can take hold of the wand, it cannot speak to me now that I possess this ring. You do not have to endure it any more.”
Anarchocles slowly turns to Naismith and stares at him before shaking his head, “No. The wand is my burden now and I must bathe it in the Positive plane. It will stay with me until then.”

Mordrock wills Anarchocles to sit down by Naismith and share with the group how he came to be and where he was prior to this. The mighty hero acquiesces and begins to tell his story. His story of the battle between Orcus and himself, fits the legend perfectly. When he was slain, Orcus trapped his spirit in a blood ruby and tormented him for a millennia. He made Anarachocles’s spirit feel the decapitation of his head, the exposure of his skull and the attachment to the wand. Anarchocles endured the pain from the necrotic energy Orcus used to bind his skull to the wand to craft the wand of Orcus. When Orcus was defeated in the Underdark, the Prince of Undeath’s essence returned to Thanatos to begin restoration. During this time, a squad of Kelemvor’s angels attacked Orcus’s lair, pried out the blood ruby from the throne, and bound it to Mordrock; none of the squad survived but they did complete their mission. Orcus nor the wand, knew what happened to the gem until Mordrock swallowed it and set Anarchocles free.
“And when I re-appeared today, thanks to Mordrock, I felt for a second fear from Orcus as he was completely surprised by this.”
Anarchocles pauses and then says to the group, “For you to have carried the wand all that time until here, is a testament of your endurance and personal responsibility to protect the multiverse from a great evil. You as well, are legendary.”

Naismith looks away toward the body of Zombie Nong.

Royce is the first to see another githzerai citadel approach what is now just a small island surrounding the group; a fraction of the rock formation remaining since Sithka departed. Royce, who is sweating and trembling from the concentration, feels the tension in his mind subside enabling him to relax and let go; he’s confident the githzerai on the ship have it now under control. Sithka and crew float down to the area and head toward the key that is partly submerged in the ground. She nods to Royce in appreciation and motions the Drow’s Bane over to her. The githzerai arrange themselves in a circle around the key and begin to concentrate. The key lights up again, begins to alter its shape and transforms into a gateway. The gateway activates and a bright light emanates from within, to reveal the Positive plane on the other side.

Sithka informs Royce that she can hold the gate open for about a minute. Royce tells the others and they prepare to enter. Anarchocles moves first through the portal. He is instantly blinded by the plane and Mordrock instinctively holds his breath from the lack of air; Naismith and Royce follow next. The rogue uses his blindsense to detect where Anarchocles and Royce are; he senses Anarchocles is struggling to keep the wand from thrashing about. He reaches out and grabs hold of Anarchocles’s hand to reaffirm the hero’s grip. When Naismith does this, a familiar dream appears in his mind. He remembers seeing Tymora’s silhouette in a bright light reassuringly nod to the rogue; the image calms Naismith allowing him to sense where Royce is and bring him closer toward the group.

Half a minute goes by and Naismith senses the wand is full of spider cracks and small chips in the skull are beginning to break away. With everyone holding their breath, no one can verbally guide the others so Naismith keeps his hand firm on Anarchocles’s hand. A minute goes by, and the party begins to feel discombobulated from the radiant energy penetrating their entire bodies. The wand is now severely cracked throughout and maybe a few seconds more, is all they need to destroy it. Naismith remembers Sithka holding the gate open, but immediately dismisses that thought; he always believed this was going to be a one way journey anyway.

One minute, eighteen seconds go by and the wand is exploding at the same time Naismith, Royce and Mordrock feel a cosmic pull on their beings; a feeling very familiar to each of them, like being pulled back from death. The choice is Now or Never…

Royce gives into the pull.

Mordrock gives into the pull.

Naismith resists the pull.

The wand explodes in the Positive plane causing the Wand of Orcus to be eternally destroyed forever in this timeline. The legendary Drow’s Bane succeed in their destiny! Huzzah!!!

Royce sees darkness.

Mordrock sees darkness.

Naismith awakes on the banks of the river Styx, in Avernus; the first layer of Hell.

Fate’s Chosen: audentes fortuna iuvat (“fortune favors the bold”)

Devils of all shapes and sizes spew out of crimson portals, screaming infernal battle cries: narzugons on infernal steeds charge past the Drow’s Bane and collide with death knights on their nightmares; pit fiends and amnizus fly out and lock onto dracoliches and their riders. Hellfire engines, last to emerge, slowly move out and position themselves ready to unload their deadly cannons upon Orcus’s army.

The War of the Wand has officially begun.

Orcus lets out an abyssal charge to his second in command, the molydeus, to take down Anarchocles now! The huge two headed beast moves to engage the legendary hero’s corporal form; it lets out a battle cry as it swings its gigantic battleaxe striking Anarchocles across the chest. The fiend follows through with a bite from his wolf head and another from his serpent head; both connect with their target. Mordrock feels the pain and also hears the thoughts of Anarchocles, who grips tighter his Rod of Lordly Might as he responds with a vicious blow to the wolf head.

Nong, who is engaged with Orcus, continues to pummel the Prince of Undeath unleashing everything he’s got. Each time Nong swings, Orcus returns with a tail swing. Then Orcus points his wand at Nong, utters a command and a swirling necrotic vortex forms around the monk. Nong realizes he is in a bad predicament as a large skeletal hand flies from Orcus’s wand, causing major necrotic damage to Nong; the skeletal hand hangs off of Nong hindering his ability to heal himself too. The monk is quick to flee the vortex by running across the battlefield towards his comrades. However this does not stop Orcus, who is unrelenting; he continues to cast more skeletal hands that fly across the battlefield and slice through Nong.

Kendall’s dracolich flies past Royce and Naismith and they notice Kendall is not riding it. The huge dracolich drops onto the ground near them, projecting a fierce frightening aura. Unfortunately, the aura does not affect the party thanks to last night’s Heroes Feast.
“Royce, be on the look out for Kendall. He has disappeared again and that means trouble. I don’t sense him near me either.”
“Watch out Naismith!”
Naismith dodges the great maw of the dracolich, somersaulting just in time. Naismith follows up with a jump to the top of the great undead beast and slashes away; the dracolich roars out in pain from the deep wound. Royce strikes next causing radiant energy from Dawn Bringer to rip a gash down the dracolich’s side. The huge beast flaps its wings in response, drawing its large body up into the air, causing a mighty current to knock Royce down.

“Royce watch out!!” screams Mordrock.

The molydeus lifts a huge molten rock with its mind and drops it on top of both clerics. The pain from the weight and molten lava is punishing. Royce responds by attempting to cast a healing spell, only to be countered. He looks around and sees no one responsible for this act. “Damn You Kendall!” screams Royce. Naismith runs past Sithka who finishes casting a spell that instantly engulfs her in a protective globe of energy. “Sithka, use your citadel! We need everything we can get now,” as Naismith points to the citadel. Sithka acknowledges the rogue, even though she does not understand him and vanishes into thin air.

Naismith runs behind one of the Hellfire cannons to catch his breath. He feels a tingling sensation all over his body as the plane of Limbo transforms before his eyes into a giant maze. At the same time, fifty feet in the air, four Kendalls appear from casting a spell. Naismith glances around the labyrinth and remembers a similar description from Nong, who could not escape for an entire fight. “Jimjar, please give me some luck here!” as he concentrates on re-imagining Limbo. Today, luck is on his side as he manages to overcome the image and will himself back onto the plane of Limbo. He pops back onto the battlefield as the scowling four Kendalls look down at him in anger.

The rogue leaps up and flies close by the Kendalls, however, the rogue is not fast enough to strike before the four Kendalls succeed in banishing him back to his home plane. Naismith blinks into existence in the Dock Ward of Waterdeep. “What happened? Why am I…in Waterdeep? NO! This can’t be happening, not now!! Damn you Kendall!” Fear races across his mind as he grabs his necklace,
“Sithka, Sithka! Help Me! I’ve been banished back to Waterdeep in the Dock Ward. Please, you must help me get back to Limbo.”
Moments later he hears Sithka respond, “Naismith, this can’t be. I just positioned the citadel over the battlefield. I’m channeling all of my power into it now. Hold on, I think I know how to get you back.”
Sithka throws the controls over to her comrade and yells back at another to follow her. They run through the citadel, toward a summoning chamber. She races to the center of the room, grabs hands with her comrade, and casts Plane Shift.

Pop! Sithka and her comrade appear over the Dock Ward in Waterdeep. They hover in the air looking for Naismith as surprised Waterdhavians on the dock start pointing up at the githzerai. Sithka’s comrade points down and sees the rogue running toward them. They fly down toward Naismith, grab his hands, then Sithka turns to her comrade,
“Quick, Ansel, get us back to the citadel!”
“Order understood, captain.”

Pop! And the three reappear back in Limbo. However they do not reappear on the citadel, but floating among pieces of a destroyed citadel, at the claws of Kendall’s dracolich, who now sees the group twenty feet away.
“What?! This can’t be. No! My crew!”
“Sithka, the dracolich! Get out of here now!”
The dracolich moves in for a bite, missing Sithka but connecting with Ansel, who screams out in pain as the giant maw severs his body in two.
Naismith jumps across pieces of the destroyed citadel and lands on the dracolich’s head; he furiously slashes away and then flees. The dracolich flies after Naismith and manages to claw and bite him before turning around and flying towards the vulnerable Sithka. Naismith looks up and sees the four Kendalls hovering above him, glaring back at the rogue in bewilderment. The four Kendalls raise there hands and a cone of cold sprays over him.

Anarchocles and Royce continue to strike at the molydeus between lightning attacks from the four Kendalls. The molydeus focuses on Anarchocles, intent on felling the ancient hero’s spirit in duty to his master. Then, the clerics hear Nong cry out as the half-orc gets blasted by a beam of necrotic energy from the wand of Orcus, killing the monk on impact. A deep guttural laugh from Orcus overtakes the battlefield. The Prince of Undeath then points the wand at Nong’s dead body and issues an abyssal command. Moments later, the dead body begins to stir and rise up, now in the form of an undead drooling zombie. Orcus yells out in Common, “Nong my drooling zombie thrall, I command you to eat your comrades’ brains now!” Zombie Nong responds to the command and drags his disfigured body in the direction of the clerics.

There is a look of fear between Mordrock, Royce and Naismith in regards to watching their fallen friend, rise up as a zombie. The good news, is that Zombie Nong is a fraction of his true power, which means he is unable to land a hit on either mighty cleric. Between the mighty rod of Anarchocles, Dawn Bringer and Royce’s spiritual weapon, the clerics manage to take down the molydeus. However, the four Kendalls succeed in taking Naismith down at the same time. Royce is quick to get Naismith back in the fight as the thunderous Prince of Undeath charges toward Anarchocles. The legendary battle between Orcus and Anarchocles ignites for a second time in history. The legendary hero is fast, and Mordrock’s body keeps up, but Orcus is just as mighty, especially wielding the wand.

Mordrock realizes how easily he controls life and death as a cleric and as he dodges Orcus, he strikes Zombie Nong dead. He rushes to the undead body and touches it trying to restore it to natural life. Except, the undead body does not rise up as a living Nong. Only very powerful divine magic can restore an undead body to its original form and bring life to it. But that requires time, and time is not something Mordrock has right now.

The dracolich dives for Sithka and easily swipes both claws at her. Alone, among pieces of her ship and dead comrades, Sithka has few choices to survive. She casts a spherical wall of force around her as a last effort to endure the strength of the dracolich. The wall withstands several strikes, but Sithka realizes it is only a matter of time before she loses her concentration.

Royce looks up to the four Kendalls and attempts to banish them in hopes to turn the tables, but Kendall is quick to notice and counters the attempt. The wizard responds with another lightning spell that lights up Royce.

Royce realizes being in between Orcus, Kendall and eventually the dracolich, they cannot survive for long. The party needs protection and soon. His mind races through idea after idea until he stops, grabs the bag of holding and pulls out Daern’s Instant Fortress. He throws the tiny fortress in the direction of the four Kendalls and Orcus and says the magic word. The fortress transforms into its castle like size clipping Orcus and Kendall in the process; Orcus is pushed back fifteen feet and so is Kendall.
“Quick, get in the fortress now!” screams Royce as he rushes into it, followed by Naismith. Mordrock, however, is too engaged with Orcus to pay attention to the advice.

The battlefield is littered with infernal and abyssal ichor and no side seems to have the upper hand at the moment. But the bold move to unleash Daern’s Instant Fortress, gives advantage to the Drow’s Bane. The fortress provides cover allowing Naismith to shoot down the dracolich moments after its last strike causes Sithka to loose her concentration.

Orcus gets the upper hand with Anarchocles and when the mighty hero and Mordrock fall, the Prince of Undeath stomps on the unconscious body determined to kill it quickly. Royce is quick to intervene with a heal from the fortress window, but Mordrock does not manage to get up before Orcus stomps on his body again causing his eyes to close once more. Orcus is so focused on killing Anarchocles, he does not see Sithka appear near the fortress and cast Reverse Gravity in the direction of the Prince of Undeath and Kendall.

Orcus looses his balance from the spell but manages to grab hold of the ground instead of flying upward, however the four Kendalls are not so lucky and go spinning upward uncontrollably. The opportunity plays into the Drow’s Bane’s hand as Naismith reaches out of the fortress window and successfully casts Faerie Fire on the four Kendalls; and only the real Kendall lights up. As Kendall tries to regain his balance, Naismith lets arrow after arrow fly toward the undead wizard until Kendall eventually stops moving. Moments later, only the robe of stars tumbles to the ground.

Royce seizes the opportunity to get Mordrock back in the fight. The Prince of Undeath cannot regain control of the situation before Royce’s spiritual weapon successfully strikes deep into Orcus’s heart, causing the Prince of Undeath to look out in horror as he collapses to the ground, dead.

Fate’s Chosen: Limbo

There is no gravity in Limbo and the environment is constantly in flux. The Drow’s Bane see before them Sithka’s adamantine citadel among several colliding earth motes, a lightning storm and a swirling vortex that shifts between wind and water every few seconds. This plane is pure chaos.

The party wills themselves forward toward the ship; some catch on faster than others. The citadel’s hatch is open, and inside two githzerai focus on keeping the doors open as they motion the party to enter. Sithka stands in the back, waiting.
“Welcome back, I’m surprised to see you again and am happy you look well.”
Nong acknowledges her as the others acclimate to the ship’s gravity. Royce casts Tongues to understand the gith language.
“Thank you Sithka for hosting us again. It is a pleasure to be in your company once more. Since we last spoke, we have made great strides in our journey to defeat this thing,” as Royce points to the wand resting at Nong’s side.
“We have discovered these two metal plates, the first is a teleportation circle that maps to somewhere in Limbo,” as he hands the first plate to Sithka.
She examines the plate and concludes, “Yes, you are correct. I believe from what I’m seeing, these coordinates are in this vicinity of Limbo and we can easily set a course there.”
“The other plate here, we understand might be a key to a gate, and the key requires significant psychic power to manipulate. This is why we seek your assistance, for the key might unlock a gate to the Positive plane,” says Royce handing Sithka the second plate.
Sithka’s face lights up with curiosity as she examines the second plate, “Fascinating. I will need to study this further before I can answer you on what it is and how to activate it. I do sense this is very old and maybe it is a four dimensional key.”

She motions for her guests to follow her as she escorts them into the citadel to a comfortable room where a meal is nicely presented.
“Please, you can relax here and enjoy some fine cuisine from Limbo,” as she smiles and glances at the food.
“I must study this plate and I will return to you when I have more information.”
“Thank you Sithka, we truly appreciate it.”

Nong quietly requests a place to meditate three hundred feet away from the others and one of the giths obliges.

About four hours goes by before Sithka returns with a few gith by her side. She walks into the room looking confident. She waits until Nong is fetched before she explains her findings.
“You were correct this is a four dimensional key to a gate that opens onto the Positive plane. I will need five of my patrol with me to channel enough psychic energy to activate it and open the gate. I believe we can keep it open for about a minute. Can you accomplish your task within this time?”

Royce and Nong look at each other, unclear on how to answer but figure how much time should it really take to bathe a wand in positive energy?
“Uh, yes we will make it happen with the time you give us.”
“Excellent, how do you plan to protect yourselves? I’ve only had researches spend a few seconds on the plane to gather samples. A minute is quite long and probably very dangerous to your bodies.”

Royce and Nong again look at each other, unclear on how to answer. Sithka picks up on the apprehension and responds, “I see you are not familiar with the environmental hazards of the plane. Very well, we can probably shield you while you cross into the plane, but not for very long. The plane is so bright you will be blinded as soon as you step into it and of course, you will have to hold your breath given there is no air on the plane either. However, the real problem is the radiant energy that fills your body with healing energy until it cannot take anymore. Which results in your body exploding and you die. We obviously don’t want that, so you must be quick with your task.”

Another pregnant pause fills the room before Nong responds, “We heard about the plane’s hostile environment already. We understand this is potentially a suicide mission.”

Royce translates to Naismith and Mordrock about Sithka’s findings.
“What if we figure out a way to use our Caps of Water Breathing to simulate an environment with air, like we could wear glass bowls filled with water in them?” asks Naismith.

The groups spends an hour exploring options with whatever glass containers Sithka has on the ship. They fill them with water, put them on their heads while wearing the Cap of Water Breathing, only to find the water pours out; they next try with sand and hold their breath while the gith focus on converting the sand to water, but the water still empties out. Naismith asks about wax, but the gith have no understanding of what wax is. Eventually, they give up exploring options.

The adamantine citadel arrives near the teleportation circle. Sithka first channels her citadel’s energy to stabilize the surrounding area into a rock formation that should persist for several hours. She, five githzerai and the Drow’s Bane exit the ship and will themselves down to the area.

The rocky ground is littered with pockets of molten lava, caught in mid-transformation, which now sits bowling and spewing among the rock formation; the location is very warm but well lit thanks to the lava pools. Sithka counts her steps and then stops, “Here is the location of the teleportation circle.” She spreads her hands and focuses on the area; the ground lights up with runes that match the runes on the metal plate. She takes out the second plate and lays it down in the circle. She motions to her patrol to grab hands, form a circle, and begin the psychic focus. The Drow’s Bane watch the circle intently.

The metal plate begins to glow. The gith’s psychic energy causes the plate to begin to expand, form into a cylinder, and move.

Naismith and Royce think they hear sounds, like a roar, come from the distance somewhere. Nong notices in the corner of his eye, the forming of a new rock formation extending from where they are, out a thousand or more feet. He looks around but only sees the giths focusing on the key. How is this happening?

Everyone hears a horrible screeching sound above them as a giant cloud fast approaches their location from the extended rock formation. The cloud washes over them and hangs in place, causing the area to become heavily obscured. The gith begin coughing as they inhale the cloud’s poisonous vapors and lose their concentration; they break the circle, cover their mouths and look for an escape, not understanding what just happened or why. The Drow’s Bane begin calling out to the gith and to each other in the impenetrable fog; fortunately for them, they are not affected by the poison thanks to last night’s Heroes’ Feast.

Then, everyone pauses as they focus on the sound coming toward them like a great tidal wave of movement and angry cries. The thousand angry voices penetrate the cloud and flood past the party; the crying is so loud it prevents anyone from hearing anyone else in the chaos.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Everyone is pummeled with cold, spectral hands that wash over them as the cries penetrate their minds. The flood of undeath moves through the cloud overwhelming the gith patrol who immediately succumb to death. Sithka and the Drow’s Bane are tougher, but barely survive the attack. Fear clouds Sithka’s mind as she begins to crawl in any direction to survive another onslaught. Naismith leaps up and flies searching to escape the chaos. As he crests the cloud, he stops in shock.

Several dracoliches with riders, one being Kendall, hoover quietly, staring back at him. He sees beyond the dracoliches, death knights on nightmares who silently glare back at him too. The rogue flies over the cloud in the opposite direction to find more dracoliches with riders; he also catches a glimpse of a huge two-headed fiend wielding a gigantic battleaxe, just standing and watching him. Mordrock manages to escape the cloud next and freezes as he catches the same sight of an army of fiends and undead, quietly staring back at him. The cleric calls out to his comrades at the same time the cloud begins to break away. Royce and Nong watch the cloud lift, but then drop their jaws as the horrific scene beyond, slowly comes into view.

Nong pulls out the wand and gets into a defensive stance as he hears a familiar deep guttural voice laugh inside his head,
“It is time for me to take back my wand Nong Sung Roc. Your death today marks the beginning of your eternity as a drooling mindless zombie forever roaming in my shit!”

The party quickly turns to see the monk let out a cry as the wand he wields, engulfs his hand in necrotic flame, then flies across the battlefield and lands in the palm of the Prince of Undeath. The pain is so severe, Nong falls to his knees clutching his charred hand, looking up and seeing the huge fiend in the back of the battlefield, triumphantly wield the wand of Orcus.

Royce, Naismith and Mordrock see Orcus now too and quickly realize how dangerous this situation has become. They see Nong let out a battlecry, then charge across the battlefield and engage with the Prince of Undeath. Kendall’s dracolich responds next as it lowers its head, opens its mouth and unleashes a lightning bolt that lights up Royce, Mordrock and Naismith. Royce begins casting a healing spell only to be countered by a dracolich rider. Naismith begins casting Faerie Fire only to be countered by Kendall.

Mordrock steps away from the group, pulls out his necklace and swallows it. He feels the crystal go down and then an immense warmth overtake his body. A surge of energy rises up from within the cleric of Kelemvor as the spirit of Anarchocles emerges; the two become one as the spirit of Anarchocles is now anchored to the corporal body of Mordrock. Royce and Naismith stare in shock as to what just happened to their comrade, neither comprehending it but hoping it means good news.

Orcus lets out a fell rage as he witnesses the transformation and realizes who now stands on the battlefield – the legendary fighter, whose skull rests on the wand of Orcus; whose soul was imprisoned in the throne of Orcus; where legend has it he is the only one who can wash the wand in positive energy to destroy it for all eternity.

At the same time, several crimson portals erupt from behind Royce and Naismith…

it looks like the infernal cavalry has joined the party too.

Fate’s Chosen: saying goodbye to friends and loved ones

Petha and Lela notice the flash in the courtyard and see familiar faces appear out of thin air. They greet the Drow’s Bane but realize the towels they carry are not needed this time.

Royce is greeted by Lela who speaks to him in broken common,
“Welcom..hom…mast….Royce.”
“Lela, that’s good. You are speaking common now.”
“Yes, master Royce, her classes have been going well; she’s a fast learner of the language.”
Lela takes Royce’s hand and describes to him how she thinks Petha is nice, and Yonica is sweet and says ‘Petri’ shaking her head and frowning. She breaks into Aquan and details how the basilisk scares her; Nong listens and smirks in response.

The party spends the day acclimating back into familiar territory. After a meal and some light rest, Naismith calls to Petha to take a walk with him. The two walk in the garden as he explains to her that Illian and Tusker, have unfortunately passed. Petha grips her scarf and begins to cry; Naismith follows suit. The two console each other and talk about the need for hosting a memorial dedicated to the ranger and her sidekick. They continue this conversation with the others and ideate on what to do.
“I have her two scimitars that I would like mounted. We can place them with the memorial.”
“I can make them into a cairn and we can assemble it on the small mound over there,” points Mordrock.
“What do you think she wants to be remembered by?” asks Petha.
“I think we plant in her name a tree right over here,” points Naismith toward the garden.

Two days later, the Drow’s Bane and Catchbreeze staff hold a memorial in the garden, attributed to Illian Nightbreeze and Tusker. Each take turns speaking about a favorite memory of their friends and an occasional laugh breaks the constant melancholy mood. Lela and Yonica carry baskets of cut flowers, and proceed up to the cairn where they lay them out. The party closes the memorial by planting a tree in Illian’s name. The beautiful event not only helps with closure, but serves as a catalyst for each of them to consider the implication of their next journey.

Over the next few days:

Royce finishes the letter and wraps it with ribbon. He takes it to his father, who has been really enjoying his stay at Catchbreeze.
“Dad, I’m happy to hear how wonderful your stay here has been for you. Listen, I need you to do something for me, okay?”
Royce hands his father the letter, “Please take this to mom after I leave for my next trip. You see, where I’m going will be extremely dangerous and necessary…Dad, if I do not return, then consider this my goodbye,” as Royce hugs his father deeply.

Royce’s father looks surprised but remembers all the times he has kept dibs on the whereabouts of his son; to him, Royce has always been a great hero to this world.
“I’m so proud of you son, for everything you have accomplished in life; especially your dedication to Tempus. I know you have to do what you have to do, and I know He is watching over you.”
Father and son spend the rest of the afternoon together, catching up on old memories and laughing about this, that, and the other.

Mordrock enters the City of the Dead holding a blanket. He makes his way to a familiar corner of the cemetery where he goes to escape from the world. He gently places the blanket down and begins to dig a hole. He unwraps the blanket, takes out the body of a two-headed kitten and buries it. “There you go Samantha. It is time for your eternal rest. I’m so sorry I kept you from it, for so long. Please forgive me.”

Nong looks up and sees the sign, “Monastery of the Sun” and enters. He glances around and sees monks dressed in simple garb and the fragrance of incense burns in the background; he is confident he has found the right place. Nong walks up to a man in yellow robes, “Hey, I’m looking for the abbot of this place?”
The man nods and replies, “You have found him. My name is Abbot Hanor of the Monastery of the Sun. How can I…help…you…?” The abbot trails off at the end of his question when he notices the strange creepy wand and dark aura emanating around this half-orc.

Nong presents a heavy satchel filled with coins, “I would like to make a donation of five hundred gold,” and hands it to the surprised abbott.
“I have one request. The next foundling who joins your monastery, I ask you to name him Taliq. That is all.”
Nong abruptly turns around and walks out of the monastery before abbott Hanor has a chance to respond.

On the opposite side of Waterdeep, Naismith enters the Tower of Luck, a temple dedicated to Tymora, goddess of luck.
“Excuse me, I have an important request for a clergy member. I am seeking the aid of a planar ally known as Jimjar; he is a deva of Tymora. How much would it cost to summon him for me?”
“Your request kind sir is expensive but possible. We can arrange for this for the price of one thousand seven hundred fifty gold pieces.”
“Done,” as Naismith hands over a large sack of gold pieces.

Naismith is brought to a summoning room where he is asked to sit at a table and wait. The cleric lights candles around the room and then approaches the middle.
“Jimjar is what you said, correct?”
“Yes, that is the deva’s name. Thank you.”
The cleric begins casting Planar Ally and ten minutes later, the deva appears in the room.
“Naismith. It is wonderful to see you.”
“And you as well Jimjar. We just experienced a horrific situation, and a perilous decision on my part to save the group.”
Jimjar responds with a loving smile and simple affirming nod. Naismith motions the deva to sit at the table with him, as the rogue pulls out a deck of cards and shuffles them.
“Come old friend, and play cards of chance with me.”
Jimjar takes a seat at the table and receives the dealt hand. Naismith begins playing a card and describes the choice he had to make.
“I took your advice you gave me. But I wasn’t expecting that it would lead to the ultimate gamble for my soul.”
Jimjar looks at his hand, draws and plays a card, “Everything has consequences. But I am happy you sit before me alive and well.”
Naismith plays two cards, “Is there a way back for me?”
Jimjar responds with two cards, one face up the other face down, “What you ask I cannot see for it is too far into the future. But there is always a way to play the odds if the timing is right.”
Naismith plays a three card combination of high cards, sits back and waits. Jimjar looks at this hand and knows he cannot beat that; he lays down the rest of his hand, “You win!” and smiles.

The deva stands up and says, “Know this, inspite of your contract, I am still granting you spells. Think about that,” as he prepares to exit. “It was great to see you Naismith. It was time,” and vanishes from the room.

A few days later, Royce returns from a shopping trip having spent one thousand five hundred gold pieces for a tuning fork to Limbo. The group decides to leave the next day. Later that afternoon, Royce approaches Petha and explains to her about their next trip and how they may not return.
“We leave you everything in the coffers and the property itself, so you can enjoy the rest of your life. We have truly enjoyed having you as head of estate.”
Petha gives Royce a hug and says, “Thank you master Royce. I am sad to hear this but in my time working here, I’ve come to expect such things. You know, you are not the first to occupy this estate. I do believe it was granted to you by Lady Silverhand herself. Have you informed her yet of your next adventure? I’m sure she would appreciate the information.”
“You are right Petha, I forgot about that. We definitely need to speak to her as soon as possible. She was the one who brought us together.”

The next day, the Drow’s Bane arrive at the palace to see Lady Laeral Silverhand. She welcomes them into a dining hall where a small feast is presented. They partake in lunch as they fill her in on their latest news. She listens intently and when they are done, asks,
“Do you know anything about the Positive plane?”
“Umm, not really Lady Silverhand. Only that we need psychic power to open up the gate from Limbo.”
“I see,” and turns to her staff to request the presence of Talestra, her loyal wizard.

Talestra appears and bows to formally greet the guests. Lady Silverhand asks her to describe the Positive plane. Talestra does not see that coming, and pauses for a second deep in thought. Once she is able to call to memory, she approaches,
“Yes my lady. The Positive plane is a plane composed of pure radiant energy. There is no air on the plane and it is inhospitable to those that depend on it to survive. One cannot see either and if you stay for more than a minute, you explode from the healing energy that constantly infuses your body until it reaches capacity.”

The party looks at each other in fear for what they just heard. Lady Silverhand picks up on the awkwardness,
“Thank you Talestra. Do you guys have any way of staying alive on the plane? How long do you need to bathe the wand?”
“We are unsure my lady. We hope it requires no more than the time it takes to hold our breath and keep our eyes closed.”

Together, they agree for Lady Silverhand to renounce Catchbreeze from the Drow’s Bane in one year, if they do not return; Petha will become Lela’s official guardian at that time as well. Lady Silverhand is proud of them and promises to begin work on their epic saga with her bards.
“You will not be forgotten Drow’s Bane. I promise you that.”

The next morning, Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong stand in a circle in the garden. They clasp hands and listen to Royce cast Plane Shift marking their destination as ‘Sithka’s adamantine citadel in Limbo’. A moment later, they blink out of existence and reappear in Limbo five hundred feet from the familiar ship.

Fate’s Chosen: the MacGuffin

Royce’s eyes open to see staring down at him, Nong, who is barely alive. There is a look of exhaustion in Nong’s face – partly from fighting a god and partly from carrying the weight of the wand of Orcus all this way. Nong limps back to allow Royce space to move and get up. The cleric of Tempus looks around and sees the results of the battlefield: huge chunks of dead Kyuss litter the ground, spawn corpses everywhere and a horrendous stench of worms and undeath. He feels a throbbing pain creep up on him, as he looks down and sees a bloody finger stump.
“What the hell happened to my finger!”
“Talk to Naismith about that one. If you ask me, he did what he had to do to save our lives.”
There is also a slight sting coming from Royce’s inner arm; he grabs it searching for the culprit. He is shocked when he sees staring back at him, a branded copper scourge tattoo – the mark of Glasya.
“Damn him! I curse Naismith for doing this to me. Why didn’t you leave me to die in peace. I could be resting in Warrior’s Rest right now, instead of this crap.”
Nong gives Royce a look of disgust as he moves toward the bodies of Naismith and Mordrock, “Royce are you going restore our comrades or not?”

Royce glances nearby to see the stable bodies of Talina and Naismith and a dead Mordrock. He bandages his finger stump and prepares to restore the party with some mass healing. Naismith and Talina slowly open their eyes, inhale the stench and jerk upright. Naismith looks up and catches an angry stare from Royce.
“What happened? Where are the devils Nong?”
“They are gone. Those hellfire cannons got the last good hit in, tore Kyuss to shreds and then went home.”
Nong walks over to Naismith, extends a hand to him, “Thank you Naismith for the courage you took to engage them. We wouldn’t have survived without your leadership,” as he scowls in Royce’s direction.

Naismith is quick to comprehend what is taking place; he looks at Royce’s hand and says, “I’m very sorry Royce but I had to break your ring. I couldn’t afford the time to take it off you while I had spawn breathing down my neck. I simply reacted, and I hope you know how to restore your finger.”

Royce looks away for a moment and then focuses his attention on Mordrock’s body, “I can bring him back, just give me a moment.”
Talina approaches and touches Royce on the shoulder, “We are alive and free from that terrible thing. You fought well and brave.” She steps back and commends Naismith and Nong for the same thing. “I don’t know how we survived but you will have to tell me what happened after I fell.”
“Talina, I don’t think you want to know what happened. Just be thankful we took care of it, for you.”
Talina frowns at Nong and then replies, “I guess you are right that it’s not the most important thing to talk about right now,” as she looks over at Mordrock’s body. “But eventually, I want to know why do both clerics have one less finger?”

The few times Mordrock has briefly visited his deity was never in a chamber, like the one he is in now. This chamber, unlike the one where Kelemvor judges the dead, is small and only an ornate throne exists in it. Mordrock feels the divine power of Kelemvor emanating from the throne; the cleric instinctively kneels in respect. “Mighty Kelemvor, I have returned to you. Please oh great Kelemvor, bless me and judge me for my life trials.”
“Now is not the time for that Mordrock. You are not done with your life journey. You must return to fulfill your destiny.”
“Yes my lord. What is it that I must still do to serve in your name?”

Kelemvor lifts his hand and the necklace around Mordrock’s neck rises up and begins to glow. Mordrock looks down at it, confused by the meaning of this.
“Do you recall how this necklace came to be, Mordrock?”
“Yes. It came to me in a dream I believe, from one of your angels. But I am not clear on what it is or does, my lord.”
Kelemvor gives Mordrock a stern look, “I sacrificed many angels to fetch that from Thanatos after Orcus was defeated on the Material Plane, and before he could re-materialize.”
Kelemvor pauses and then laughs, “I guess this place is the best place to keep a secret from that wand, as Orcus hears all from his weapon. Mordrock your dream was actually you in the Astral plane, then in the Abyss, observing the rescue of Anarchocles’s spirit. His prison was contained in one of the many blood gems that decorate the throne of Orcus. His minions were quick to protect their master’s throne but were not fast enough. My angels succeeded in prying out the gem at the cost of their lives. The last angel chose you as the bearer before succumbing to the fiends of Thanatos.”

Mordrock stares at the glowing crystal, wide-eyed after hearing the story of its journey to him. He recalls the research the Drow’s Bane did to learn of the ways in which to destroy the wand. Obviously bathing it in the Positive Plane at the hand of the slain hero, is the true legend. “When you meet Orcus on the battlefield, swallow the gem to unleash Anarchocles’s spirit. Together, you and he, will become one and can defeat Orcus. Then, take his wand and go to the Positive Plane to destroy it.”

“Ouch!” cries Mordrock as he looks down and sees on his inner arm, a branding of a copper scourge appear. Confused as to how such a thing can happen to his spirit, Mordrock looks at the symbol and realizes what has happened to his body. “No!!! My soul has been sold to Glasya,” he cries out, covering his face and feeling ashamed in front of his god.

Unexpectedly, Mordrock does not hear the wrath of his god but something quite the opposite. In a gentle and comforting voice, like a parent to a child, Kelemvor reassures, “Do not be afraid of what has happened. Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock. That is the journey all heroes eventually realize and have to accept and deal with. That is the balance of the multiverse. Today you fret about your contract with Glasya, but tomorrow you may realize it was because of this contract, that allowed you to accomplish your greater goal.”

Mordrock, feeling as if surrounded in a big Kelemvor hug, begins to feel safe again in his god’s presence. He lifts his head and thanks Kelemvor for the mighty wisdom. Together, god and cleric, sense the cosmic tug of life enter into the room, like a umbilical cord tugging Mordrock back to his body.
“Go now, my faithful servant. Complete your destiny and make me proud as your side stint in necromancy has not been overlooked!”
“Yes my lord, I will honor your call and…refrain from any future necromancy,” replies Mordrock, feeling ashamed of being called out for something he thought he was doing secretly.

Mordrock’s eyes open as he senses he is back in his body once again; except for a throbbing feeling in his hand he quickly remembers the stench of the room before his fall. He remembers the last image before he fell and reacts by shaking his body to release the burrowing grubs that are no longer alive.
“Welcome back, Mordrock. You are alive again.”
“Thank you Royce, for saving me once again.”

Mordrock looks down and sees a bloody finger stump and now feels its throbbing pain. He realizes his ring finger is missing.
“Where’s my finger?”
“We will grow you a new one once we are in a safe place and can rest.”
“I’m sorry Mordrock, I had to cut it off to get to your ring. I did not have the benefit of time on my side.”
“I understand Naismith. You did what you had to do.”

Nong sees behind him, an invisible imp appear; it waves to Nong as it flies toward the party. Nong begins to say something when the imp drops the invisibility.
“I guess now that we are family, you can call me ‘Bedichiah’. Come, you need to find the dawn essence to will it to reveal to you the Positive Plane.” Bedichiah flies toward the remains of Kyuss’s prison.

The party leaves Talina behind and follows the imp. When Talina catches up to them, she finally sees the imp. By now, she has learned this troupe of characters have very colored stories and it is best to just go with the flow. She approaches, sighs and points, “Let me guess, that thing’s with you right?”

The Drow’s Bane silently nod back to her.

Bedichiah motions for Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong to reach into the essence at the same time. “This essence is from the dawn of time. What you are about to do, no human has done in all of their history.” Together they reach into the essence and focus their mind on it, willing it to reveal to them the path forward. The essence responds with a bright flow that turns dull; out of it emerges a contraption of multi-colored tiles in response. The party stares at the contraption, unsure of what to do next or if this is the answer they seek. Bedichiah flies to it, examines the structure and replies, “But of course, the gods placed a lock on the essence. You must figure out the pieces before the answer is revealed to you.”

Royce, Mordrock, Naismith and Nong inspect the puzzle and see three colors of runes – white, green and brown; the runes have symbols on each of them. There are also matching white, green and brown tiles.
“I think we need to place the runes on the same color tiles.”
“Yes, and match the symbols at each endpoint, I think.”
Curiously, only Naismith can move the white runes, Mordrock and Royce the green runes and only Nong can move the brown runes. Eventually they figure out the puzzle and when the last rune is placed, two symbols emerge from the essence.

Talina is first to recognize the first symbol looks like the runes that compose a teleportation circle, but to where she is uncertain. Bedichiah approaches the first symbol and removes it from the essence and eventually determines the runes inscribed on it are a teleportation circle that originates on the plane of Limbo.
“Limbo? Our next trip is to Limbo?”
Bedichiah approaches the second and inspects it. “This is not a teleportation circle, but the beginning of a key to possibly a gate to the Positive plane. This key requires significant psychic energy to transform it into its four dimensional self.”
“If that is true, then the teleportation circle has to be the source where you launch the gate from,” replies Talina.

The party stares back in amazement at Talina for her discovery.
“Who do we know who has psychic powers?”
“None of use have such powers. We must seek the wisdom of Tempus once we have traveled to Limbo.”
“Wait! We know someone from Limbo.”
The party stares at Naismith hungry for what he has to say next.
“The Githzerai are from Limbo. Remember these necklaces that Sithka gave to us? We can call to her if we ever needed her help!” Naismith reveals the simple necklace from around his neck. He holds it in his hand and begins to focus on it. The necklace appears to be infused with a way to communicate to the githzerai captain. Everyone else quietly watches the rogue begin to speak out loud; no one else besides him, can hear the female githzerai voice respond. When Naismith ends the message, he turns to the group excitedly and says, “Sithka agrees to help us! We must travel to Limbo to meet her.”

The party breaks into a conversation of planning and strategy at the same time, the female triton takes a few steps back from the group. Royce is the first to notice,
“Talina, everything okay? You must come with us to Limbo. We can’t do this without you.”
Talina smiles back at Royce, “Royce, my journey with you has always been to see you safely through my plane of existence. Where you go next is not my journey; my journey with you has come to an end. A happy and wonderful end.” She walks up to Royce, gives him a kiss and says, “I hope we will meet again when you are done with your task. I will certainly miss you.”
Royce embraces her, and passionately kisses her back, “I understand Talina. I will miss you too and I can’t wait until our paths cross again.”

Talina embraces the others in a warm goodbye, then waves to them, and makes her way down the stairs toward the laboratory’s exit.

Bedichiah cuts through the pregnant pause that lingers in the room after Talina’s departure.
“Do you understand why only some of you could move certain runes only?”
“Well, the two clerics could move tiles so maybe it has to do with being a cleric and not?”
“Or maybe it requires more than one person to unlock the puzzle?”

Royce, who is still looking at the stairway where Talina descended, drys a tear from his eye and says, “If it took the whole pantheon of gods to imprison Kyuss at the dawn of time, then that means good, neutral and evil gods came together. The runes represent the three alignments.”
“YES! Royce that is correct. Glasya did chose well,” smiles Bedichiah.

Mordrock puts two and two together in his head as he looks at Nong, who happens to look a bit awkward at the moment. He then hears the voice of Kelemvor enter his mind,
“Nothing is earned in the multiverse without cost and sacrifice, Mordrock.”

The Church of the Morninglord: St Andral

With two clerics (one a cleric of The Morninglord) playing through Curse of Strahd, I find myself fielding a number of questions about the church’s locations and history, and trying to piece together the information as it comes. On a second pass through St Andral’s Church in Vallaki, our curious cleric was examining the empty reliquary under the alter. Father Lucian had disappeared that this point, but she asked if she (as a cleric of the morning lord) was familiar with who St. Andral was, and rolling well enough, I proceeded to tell her… well, I proceeded to panic, as I realized the book gives us next to nothing about St Andral.

What we know for sure:

I was shocked to realize the Curse of Strahd hardcover gives us nothing except the following:

  • St Andral’s bones rest beneath the alter in the church in Vallaki. We don’t have a map to go on, but we can assume the church is slightly larger and slightly grander than the church in Barovia, although the book tells us to re-use that map if needed.
  • St Andral’s remains are indeed blessed and hold have some level of sacred power, as the will hallow the church grounds when returned.

Given these limited details and the need to answer the question, I decided in the moment that St. Andral and Lugdana, the paladin who carried the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, were now the same person, and gave a brief bio she might have reasonably recalled with a high roll on her history check—

St Andral was a paladin in the early days of the church when is was known as “The Cult of the Morninglord”. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind was delivered to her by an angel in the form of a raven, which she famously used to destroy a nest of vampires.

But What Else Do We Know?

It may be too late to incorporate all of these details into the canon established on the fly, but it’s always interesting to dive into the lore and see what else we can find in the annals of D&D history.

Fair Barovia

St. Andral’s Church and Father Lucian appear in Claudio Pozas’ Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207), but doesn’t give us much more in the way of new information— only:

The Morninglord was originally a religion brought to Barovia by traveling adventurers. In time, that religion was mixed with the traditional Barovian worship of hallowed saints of the past.

In addition to St. Andral, other Barovian saints include St. Ecaterine, St. Bogdan, and St. Markovia.

Fair Barovia, Dragon Magazine #207, p.51

For more of Fair Baroiva and its relationship to Curse of Strahd, I can’t recommend enough this excellent article from Powerscore RPG. Saints Ecaterine and Bogdan and their relics both appear in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E) alongside St. Markovia.

The church (or cult) of the Morninglord deserves its own space in another post, but if we want to learn more about this “traditional Barovan worship”, we can look next to Sword & Sorcery’s Ravenloft Gazetteers for third edition.

The Church of Andral

The Church of Andral predates Sergei von Zarovich’s ill-fated wedding in 351 Barovian Calendar (BC), having been founded in 168 BC to worship a sun god known as Ahndrel or Eundrel. By the fourth century BC, the church had died out, eventually supplanted by the worship of The Morninglord (Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol 1, p. 16).

One option might be, perhaps this is a good reason nothing is known about St. Andral himself— the name remained in the recesses of the church history as the worship of the Morninglord became more established in Barovia (which only happened after the mists descended on the valley). Andral became forgotten, the god demoted to saint with no other miraculous events or valiant martyrdom attached to his name. The bones could belong to anyone, given power by others’ faith in their divinity.

One other fun fact I learned in this research that doesn’t have much bearing on our St Andral is that according to the same Gazetteer, the leader of The Keepers of the Black Feather, Keeva Sixtywinters is, in fact, a cleric of Andral, the last keeping the original faith alive (p. 38).

Lugdana

So with nothing else on St Andral, what else can we learn about Lugdana, the Paladin? Her only mention in Curse of Strahd is in the entry for the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.

The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is a unique holy symbol sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. It predates the establishment of any church in Barovia. According to legend, it was delivered to a paladin named Lugdana by a giant raven — or an angel in the form of a giant raven. Lugdana used the holy symbol to root out and destroy nests of vampires until her death. The high priests of Ravenloft kept and wore the holy symbol after Lugdana’s passing.

Curse of Strahd, p. 222

The holy symbol has its own place in Ravenloft’s history, but Lugdana appears previously in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, which seems it be, like Curse of Strahd, a semi-reboot of Barovia stripped away from the second and third editions’ expansive Ravenloft settings. I couldn’t find mention of her in any of the 2e or 3e books.

Alongside much of the same information about the holy symbol, we learn “[Lugdana] was among the earliest settlers of the valley” (Expedition p. 214). Lugdana would later die battling a fiend named Chernovog (cue Mussorgsky) summoned by a band of witches at Lysaga Hill— a location that does not exist in Curse of Strahd, but perhaps could be combined with Yester Hill instead (Expedition p. 217).

Where to Go From Here

I’m keen to explore the “Church of Andral” aspect of the Barovian church and the Keepers of the Feather’s relationship with the “old ways” in our campaign, I think it would be an interesting place to go once the Martikovs learn the party has acquired the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. We’ve only just learned the family’s secret and their relationship with the birds of the valley, and I’m sure the party will meet them again soon. As is often the case I wish I’d know just a bit more and had done this research before the questions came up, but many times we don’t quite know where the party will end up next and don’t anticipate exactly which clues and mysteries we need to have ready for them.

——
Sources

Curse of Strahd (5E, 2016)
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3.5E, 2006)
Fair Barovia (4E, Dragon Magazine #207, 2012)
Ravenloft Gazetteer Vol. 1 (3.5E, 2002)

Fate’s Chosen: the Worm that Walks

Standing inside the platform, Naismith is the first to attack the oncoming masses of worms. He fires an arrow that pierces one of them, then steps back and vanishes into the shadows. Talina steps outside the doors onto the undulating floor of worms; she grimaces with every step, slogging through who knows what. She moves into position, focuses her casting and unleashes a cone of prismatic colors that impacts several spawn and rot grubs; some easily parish while others are held in place. Nong takes off running through the room en route to engage; along the way he vanishes into thin air. The Drow’s Bane offensive is flawless with a very strong opening. Royce casts Dawn and Mordrock casts Flame Strike; together they neutralize the rot grubs before they can even advance. However, a few swarms of Kyuss do manage to reach the party.

The chanting of the remaining swarms of Kyuss do not skip a beat and cause the Writhing Battery to spider crack across its crystalline surface. Unfortunately, the power of the Dawn spell also envelopes the prison with radiant damage, enough to cause a humongous wormy hand to break through the cracks. The sight empowers the chanting to increase in volume as the swarm senses their god is close to freedom.

Nong makes his way toward the chanting and easily attacks while no one can see him; he catches Zabrok looking around, sensing someone is nearby. When the spawns of Kyuss reach the party, they vomit more rot grubs onto Talina, Mordrock and Royce. The party is quick to zap the rot grubs to death, but the spawn of Kyuss manage to fling worms onto the party. Talina feels once again, something crawling up her skin and burrowing into her flesh. Royce is quick with a cast of Greater Restoration in response, and kills the burrowing worms.

The party hears a large crack from the Writhing Battery and now sees a huge arm breaks free. The undulating arm of worms pummels the ground near the chanters, making direct contact with the invisible Nong. When Nong comes to his senses he attacks the arm and quickly moves away, but the arm is too fast and pummels him before the monk can escape.

Talina, Naismith, Royce and Mordrock manage to take down the surrounding swarms and rot grubs, only to watch the arm point to the corpses and raise up new swarms. Royce manages to maintain his concentration on the Dawn spell that sears radiant damage into the chanters, the nearby swarms and the prison. In response, another loud crack is heard as a humongous head of moving worms and two hollow eyes, emerges. With the last of the chanting completed, Kyuss the worm that walks, breaks free. His visage is so grotesque that any other party would be instantly frightened of this great monstrosity. Thanks to last night’s Heroes Feast, the party is unaffected.

With each step, the ground beneath Kyuss trembles as he fast approaches the party; he stands twenty feet tall and he’s not alone. All of the chanters and new piles of rot grubs are en route behind him, hungry to join in on the fun. The massive head of Kyuss focuses on Royce as his first target; he raises his arm and smashes into the cleric. With that impact, Royce barely holds onto his concentration of the Dawn spell; he also feels tiny things begin to crawl over his flesh and burrow. Another swing and Royce’s concentration is gone. The bright light of dawn fades away, as darkness moves in to take its place. The Drow’s Bane continue to feel the god’s wrath leaving only Naismith without tiny visitors. Fortunately, Nong is immune to necrotic damage while he holds the wand of Orcus, preventing the multitude of his tiny visitors from killing him.

Talina is the first to succumb to worms. When Nong sees this he screams out, “Now is the time to break the rings?!?!” Naismith hears this, closes his eyes and acknowledges reality,
“Royce we need to break the rings now! We won’t survive without help!!”
“No! I will not break the ring and surrender my soul. I am ready to die and accept Tempus to carry me home!”

Royce is next to succumb to the burrowing. Mordrock is quick to cast a Mass Healing Word in response, before he succumbs to the same. Royce’s eyes open and before he can call out to Tempus, the worms burrow into him further causing him to close his eyes once again.

Nong breaks his ring and hopes for the best. Two swarms have now engaged with Naismith who is able to dodge the worms flung in his direction. The voice of JimJar enters his mind reminding Naismith to not overlook friends in his darkest hour. Naismith surrenders to the inevitable, “I knew I always would be damned in this life,” and breaks his ring. He turns his attention towards the downed clerics and dashes for their bodies.

Meanwhile, Nong is striking Kyuss with all of his might. He knows a stunning strike is pointless against the god and so he channels his ki into additional blows. Kyuss responds with signficant damage to Nong, who realizes he does not have much runway left in this fight. “Naismith, do something quick!!”

The determined rogue manages to dart next to Mordrock and Royce. Without giving it much thought, he slices off each of their ring fingers and breaks both rings. Even with all of the adrenaline rushing through his body, Naismith still feels the pain of Glasya’s copper scourge branding, upon his left inner arm. He looks up to see crimson red portals open up behind Kyuss, at the same time he feels little visitors crawling up his skin.

Emerging from the portals, two huge armored diabolic vehicles move out; both with large cannons and a hideous face carved into the front of each. Behind them, a large horned devil flies out followed by two other devils, amnizus, one holding flasks in its hand. The hellfire engines are the first to unleash their cannons, hitting Kyuss and his minions. Nong hears the cannons and immediately sees spawns and rot grubs surrounding him explode from the impact. The horned devil, attacks Kyuss from the air, striking the god with his forked spear followed by a tail swing. The aminzu holding flasks flies toward the downed clerics as the other holds his position and unleashes a fireball. Zabrok who has been taunting Nong from the air is in direct line of fire of the cannons and fireball spell. The deluge of damage tears the cambion apart as his broken body falls to the ground. Nong catches sight of this and spits in his direction before being pummeled by Kyuss. The god’s hit drops Nong to his knees; he spits out blood, channels his orcish ancestry and stands up once again, though barely alive.

The amnizu arrives at the cleric bodies and feeds them potions in between fighting the two spawn of Kyuss that took Naismith down. Unfortunately, these potions are meant to terminate the burrowing rot grubs, not heal them from unconsciousness. The impact of the diabolic firepower is enough to steer Kyuss away from the party towards the devils. Kyuss engages with the hellfire engines and pummels them but the engines are tough and stand their ground. Kyuss manages to kill the horned devil at the same time the amnizus unleash mighty attacks on him. What’s left of the battlefield is Nong, Kyuss, and the remaining devils; all of the spawns and rot grubs are destroyed by cannon fire.

As the tides of battle turn toward the party’s favor, the cleric of Kelemvor breathes his last breadth and quietly dies. Royce, Talina and Naismith are unconscious but manage to stabilize.

Nong can sense the life force of the god is fading and he musters all of his remaining strength to strike the god down, except he is unable to. It is the hellfire cannons who provide the killing blow to Kyuss. As the cannon fire tears into the god, large chunks of the wormed body fly off. No longer able to stay standing, the remains of the worm the walks, plummets to the ground.

The smell of brimstone and burnt putrid flesh fills the chamber along with an eerie silence. Nong who is breathing very heavy, looks up and sees the aminzus inspect the carnage for any lingering threats. An aminizu flies toward Nong and says, “Our business is done here. You can handle the rest.”

Crimson portals open up and the engines move into them. As the amnizus fly past Nong toward the portals, one says to him, “Mordrock must live no matter what the cost.”